Russia ready to discuss prisoner swap with US after Griner’s conviction, Lavrov says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Cambodia that the Kremlin was “ready to discuss this topic, but within the channel agreed by the presidents,” the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

“There is a certain channel that has been agreed [Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden]and no matter what anyone says in public, this channel will remain in force,” Lavrov said on Friday at the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Shortly thereafter, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated at the same summit that the US would “keep on” talks with Russia.

“We put forward, as you know, a significant proposal on which Russia should cooperate with us. And Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning and stated publicly that they are ready to interact through the channels that we have created for this very purpose. And we will achieve this,” Blinken told reporters at a press briefing.

Comments from each side suggest that the negotiating process, which has already proved difficult, may speed up in the coming days.

Russian civil servants requested last month that the former colonel from the country’s domestic spy agency, which was convicted of murder in Germany last year, to be included in a proposed U.S. exchange of infamous arms dealer Victor Bout for Greener and Paul Whelan, several sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.
Whelan, a US citizen, has been in Russian custody since 2018. convicted by a Russian court in 2020 on charges of espionage, which he vehemently denied. Griner’s conviction raised similar concerns that she was being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine. The US State Department classifies the couple as wrongfully detained.

Griner, the star of the Women’s National Basketball Association, pleaded guilty to carrying cannabis oil in her luggage on Feb. 17 while driving through a Moscow airport. country, saying she was in a hurry and “packing the stress”.

Griner is inside the defendants' cage before the court's verdict on Thursday.

Before sentencing Thursday, Griner apologized to the court and asked for leniency in an emotional speech. “I never wanted to offend anyone, I never wanted to endanger the Russian population, I never wanted to break any laws here,” she said.

“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your decision my life will not end here. I know everyone keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope it’s far from this courtroom,” she continued.

Griner’s lawyers hoped that her guilty plea and statements of remorse would result in a lighter sentence.

Her condemnation, Blinken told reporters, “draws attention to [Washington’s] very serious concerns about the Russian legal system and the Russian government’s use of arbitrary detentions to advance its own agenda using individuals as political pawns.”

“The same goes for Paul Whelan,” Blinken added.

Earlier Friday, a US State Department spokesman told reporters that Russia had not received a “serious response” to the proposed swap. The same official said that Blinken and Lavrov did not meet at the Cambodia summit and that Blinken had no intention of doing so.

Before the start of Thursday’s WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury Griner and the Connecticut Sun, members of both teams joined hands around center court, with Britney Griner observing a 42-second minute of silence.

Near the end of those 42 seconds, the crowd began chanting, “Bring her home! Bring her home!”

This story has been supplemented with additional events.

Martin Goilando of CNN and Daniel Allman contributed to this report.